TV Review: Orphan Black, Season 1 Episode 1 “Pilot”

Orphan Black posterGenre: Action | Drama | Sci-Fi

Air Date/Time: March 30 at 9/8c

Network: BBC America

Creators: Graeme Manson and John Fawcett

Director: John Fawcett

Writer: Graeme Manson


Sarah hopes that cleaning out a dead woman’s bank account will solve all her problems. Instead, they multiply at an unnerving rate. Smart, sexy and pulsating with suspense – BBC AMERICA’s new original series, ORPHAN BLACK, features rising star Tatiana Maslany (The Vow, Picture Day). She portrays Sarah, an outsider and orphan whose life changes dramatically after witnessing the suicide of a woman, “Beth,” who looks just like her. Sarah takes her identity, her boyfriend and her money. But instead of solving her problems, the street-smart chameleon is thrust headlong into a kaleidoscopic mystery. She makes the dizzying discovery that she and the dead woman are clones… but are they the only ones? Sarah quickly finds herself caught in the middle of a deadly conspiracy, racing to find answers.

Led by Tatiana Maslany, the cast includes Jordan Gavaris (Degrassi) as Felix, Sarah’s thorny foster brother and her one true confidante; Dylan Bruce (NCIS) as Paul, Beth’s boyfriend – a decent guy with chiseled features, but more complicated than he appears; Maria Doyle Kennedy (Downton Abbey) as Mrs. S, Sarah’s hard-nosed working class foster mother from across the pond; Michael Mando (The Killing) as Vic, Sarah’s volatile ex, aptly nicknamed “Vic the Dick”; Kevin Hanchard (Republic of Doyle) as Art, a veteran detective working alongside Beth who grows suspicious of her erratic behavior: and Skyler Wexler (Carrie) as Sarah’s seven-year-old daughter. The ten-part conspiracy thriller, produced by Temple Street Productions, is co-created by Graeme Manson (Flashpoint) and John Fawcett (Spartacus), with Manson also serving as writer and Fawcett as director.

Trailer: Orphan Black
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Yes. Just yes. You should watch this. Tatiana Maslany as Sarah, and Beth, and Katya, is an absolute gem. She completely inhabits the role of Sarah, even while Sarah is pretending to be Beth. Tatiana as Sarah as Beth. She’s brilliant. Jordan Gavaris adds a fantastic zing as Felix, completely entertaining and instantly my favorite character. But here’s the thing about the very British Gavaris and Maslany: they’re Canadian. Gavaris in particular is completely and I mean completely believable as British. Maslany is as well, but it isn’t the only accent she takes on… Kudos, by the way, to the special effects team and to Maslany for the best work of split-screening I’ve ever seen.

Michael Mando plays the despicable Vic with just enough likeability to leave us a bit confused about him, but somehow that’s a good thing; and I’m looking forward to learning more about Beth’s domestic and work partners. This is really Maslany’s show, though, and so far she carries it beautifully.

As for the story, it’s just getting started but it’s quite an excellent start. We learn as Sarah learns; there are very few scenes without her, and it’s a great way to be drawn into the intrigue, as she is as lost as we are. But she’s a decent con artist, and her skills take her pretty far in this first episode.

Orphan Black wide

I don’t want to give away too much, but be sure that you watch the entire episode. Just two non-spoilery warnings: one, it’s definitely not a kid-appropriate show, which you should have figured out if you watched the trailer above (which by the way is made from scenes mostly from the first episode, but not exclusively). Second, yes it’s a BBC America original production, and yes Sarah and her foster brother Felix are British, but the series is set in North America; only Sarah and Fe have those great accents. We’ll reportedly be learning about why they were moved from the UK to the US as children; just one of the many mysteries we have to look forward to.

Coming after the premiere of Doctor Who and before the premiere of The Nerdist, the premiere of Orphan Black is just the injection of smart grownup intrigue that will perfectly balance out the return of BBC America‘s Supernatural Saturdays.

I give Orphan Black, Season 1 Episode 1 “Pilot” Five Out of Five Stars.



Erin Willard
Written by Erin Willard

Erin is the Editor In Chief and West Coast Correspondent for